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Improving molecular techniques for monitoring Asian carps: Characterizing eDNA associated with spawning, eDNA persistence, and validation of new marker technology


Description of Work This spring (2014) we will measure Asian carp eDNA over time at a Missouri River site downstream of multiple spawning areas before and during spawning. We will measure the amount of Asian carp eDNA in water samples. The amount of eDNA will be related to the numbers of eggs and larvae counted in matched samples (water samples taken at the same time and place). The time since the eDNA was released by the carp will be estimated and these results will be related to the average age of AC eggs and larvae in matched samples. We will also test for substances which interfere with the eDNA measurement techniques and can lead to false negatives. We will also be validating markers developed by USGS and the U.S. Army Corps [...]

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Associate Project Chief :
Sandra Morrison
Principal Investigator :
Cathy A Richter
Co-Investigator :
Duane C Chapman, Katy E Klymus
Contact :
Jon J Amberg, Christopher M Merkes, Mark P Gaikowski
Lead Organization :
Columbia Environmental Research Center
(other) :
S. Grace McCalla

Attached Files


Environmental DNA (eDNA) has become a vital tool for early detection of invasive Asian carp, including bighead carp (BHC) and silver carp (SVC). eDNA is genetic material from cells shed from fish into the water, and can include skin cells, intestinal cells, and sperm and eggs. eDNA can also come from fish carcasses in the water, from boats and fishing gear that have been used in areas with Asian carp, and from waste from animals that have eaten the fish. Our previous work has shown that the amount of eDNA in the water increases with the amount of fish, that feeding the fish increases eDNA, that most eDNA from sperm in the water degrades within a couple days but some stays in the water for at least a few weeks. We have also found other ways that eDNA enters the water including via fish-eating birds (bald eagles, cormorants, pelicans) that shed silver carp eDNA in their waste, , or in fish slime deposited on metal surfaces which was found to persist for at least 28 days. The presence, relative quantity and quality of silver carp eDNA in the Wabash River (Indiana) was also characterized in response to the movement of telemetry tagged fish. Further, studies were completed to compare the microbes present in the digestive tracts of gizzard shad and silver carp – known as microbial source tracking (MST); it is similar to eDNA but focuses on the detection of a bacteria unique to the target species instead of the eDNA of the target species. Bacteria unique to silver carp were identified which may allow the use of MST to supplement surveillance of Asian carp eDNA. This year (2014) we will focus on the validation of new genetic markers for use in eDNA monitoring programs, data development to determine the applicability of MST within eDNA surveillance programs, and characterize the eDNA that comes from Asian carp spawning in the Missouri River, where they are already established. Our studies focus on improving the usefulness of eDNA monitoring to managers working to stop the spread of Asian carp.

Project Extension

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  • Great Lakes Restoration Initiative



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